Feb 02 2012

Komen sucks, Part 47

Nothing could heartwarm the spinster aunt–cum–plucky breast cancer survivor more than to see the vile Komen Foundation getting raked over the coals and scrutinized and vilified in the mainstream. It’s about fucking time.

So it is fair to ask: Just what are the scientific and medical standards to which the Susan G. Komen Foundation adheres, if any? Why would a breast cancer organization hire staff and elect board members that misrepresent science and facts?  Can you trust them to give you sound information about breast cancer?  And can you trust them with investing your money in the best possible efforts to end breast cancer? — Jodi Jackson, RH Reality Check.

The answer:

No. Duh.

If you missed it, the story so far:

1. Komen withdraws $600,000 in funding from Planned Parenthood, citing a policy that prohibits Komen’s support of any organization that is the subject of an investigation (Planned Parenthood is currently being harassed by House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Chairman Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), who has launched a politically-motivated, trumped-up “inquiry” into whether PP has used federal funds for abortion services).

2. Komen’s Senior Vice President for Policy turns out to be ultraconservative antifeminist Georgia gubernatorial washout Karen Handel, who thinks shocked Planned Parenthood supporters should “cry me a river” (click the thumbnail for a screencap of the offending retweet via @JessicaValenti). Handel is an anti-choice right-winger of the first water. In her gubernatorial campaign she pledged to “eliminate” grants to Planned Parenthood.

3. Outcry is substantial. I just wish it went a little deeper.

Deeper than what, you ask? Well, right now the principle criticism of Komen is that Planned Parenthood used the Komen cash to administer breast cancer screenings, about 170,000 in all, to mostly low-income and marginalized women. Now, nobody is against breast cancer screenings for the poor. But once an indigent or uninsured woman gets the free mammogram, and it comes up positive, what then? Who is going to pay for her treatment? Cute teddy bears? Volunterrorists in pink baseball caps? Consumer philanthropists eating “Crunch for the Cure” junk food? “Early detection” doesn’t mean shit if the early detectee is just left flapping in the breeze.

Listen everyone, Komen doesn’t prevent cancer, and Komen doesn’t pay for breast cancer treatment. It “raises awareness” through “early detection” and funds “research” focused on pharmaceutical cures for cancers that many of Komen’s corporate sponsors might likely have a hand in causing in the first place. Of the 11 Austin-area Komen grant recipients, for example, only one, WINGS, lists “comprehensive no-cost breast cancer treatment” in its list of services. The other 10 focus almost exclusively on diagnostics, “education,” and “patient navigation” (“patient navigation”? What the heck is that, they throw indigent patients in a boat and make’m row for the cure?).

I hasten to point out that WINGS received only $218,000 from Komen-Austin in 2011. That might sound like a lot, and it is, but in terms of cancer treatment it’s a drop in the bucket (for example, my own little foray into the cutthroat world of breast cancer patienthood has cost well over $100,000 so far. Although I have insurance, about $50,000 of that amount was out-of-pocket for designer drugs and genetic testing that insurance wouldn’t cover). So, out of all the women in the Austin area who have breast cancer — a lot, since 1 out of 7 women get it at some point — there’s only enough Komen loot to pay for the treatment of — I’ll be generous — 2.5 of them. And that’s if WINGS doesn’t spend any money on anything else, and that’s if the women go to San Antonio for their free treatment, because WINGS has no affiliation with any health care providers in Austin.

In other words, Komen doesn’t give a shit about poor women, so the hell with those who look to Planned Parenthood for a free breast exam.* With politics clearly a greater priority than women’s health, it’s no surprise that Komen is, quoth Jackson, “allied with those who misrepresent medical and public health evidence, including about causes of breast cancer.”

Nefarious Komen VP Karen Handel is not alone in her misogynist agenda. Board member Jane Abraham is also affiliated with some very nasty groups. You know those crisis pregnancy centers where lying liar godbags lie to pregnant ladies about abortions causing breast cancer and other spurious shit? Jane Abraham is, like, the queen of those things. Meanwhile, says Jackson,

you don’t see too many folks working with the Komen Foundation who are out there pounding the pavement on, say, the possible links between environmental toxins and breast cancer, causal links between which make the corporate partners of Komen very, very nervous.

Komen is the most visible brand in the whole cancer industrial complex. It disguises itself as some big altruistic community effort for women’s health, but it’s really just another conservative, honky organization with a misogynist political agenda. A marketing juggernaut instrumental in raking in piles of cash for and cleansing the tarnished images of its evil corporate sponsors, Komen has successfully brainwashed millions to believe that the “problem” of women’s health can be solved by licking yogurt lids.

* In fact, the whole Komen-driven breast cancer “movement” is centered around middle-class white women. Drop by any pinkathon on race day if you need corroboration.


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  1. zibber

    Thanks for that solid roundup!

  2. The Nerd

    The uterus-owner surcharge on the group health insurance at my place of employment makes it cost-prohibitive for me to buy in (a fact my non-uterused boss gloated over shortly after I was hired). The sum of my health care for the past few years has been supplied on an income-based sliding scale at Planned Parenthood. The irony hasn’t slipped past me that, after passing through the rigors of being prodded with long sticks in uncomfortable places, I may actually be worse off by having the awareness of cancer but not the money to do anything about it. All this because otherwise they won’t give me the means to temporarily deactivate my uterus for the next year. And each time yet another rich and powerful person takes another step to make this process even more difficult for me, I am reminded that yes, everyone does in fact hate me. IBTP

  3. Ruby Lou

    Ditto zibber. Twisty, you’re doing us all a huge service by keeping us informed about the creepy activities of this fake charity. I learned a ton of stuff on these pages about the evil nature of the cancer industry, stuff I really needed to know, and so do all of us. Kudos.

  4. Twisty

    I crib extensively from Pink Ribbons, Inc by Samantha King.

  5. Kelly

    “Patient navigation” is actually really important – it’s basically giving someone an advocate who can help them figure out paperwork, treatment, care, etc. It’s someone who’ll make sure that all i’s are dotted, t’s are crossed, etc. They also do great things like help with community resources.

  6. olympia

    I am fiercely glad to see the Komen shitheads get the heat they so richly deserve.

    For me, the PP defunding amounts to the proverbial straw. They’ve already demonstrated how little they actually care about stopping breast cancer with their lack of focus on preventative research. No, they just slap the pink on anything and everything, including products that are known carcinogens (the high point for me was seeing a case of pinked up wine coolers). Of course they don’t want to prevent breast cancer, though- where would they be without their cash cow?

  7. Pinko Punko


    TF is on the good foot

  8. Sarah C

    I don’t know where the debate is on this in North America, but in the UK Doctors are questioning whether screening is worthwhile in the first place:


    “Breast cancer screening can no longer be justified, because the harm to many women from needless diagnosis and damaging treatment outweighs the small number of lives saved, according to a book that accuses many in the scientific establishment of misconduct in their efforts to bury the evidence of critics and keep mammography alive.”

  9. Laurie

    Twisty, you called this one long ago. As heinous as the act of withdrawing funds from PP is, I just read that indie donations have already almost made up for it — so maybe the fallout is pretty positive and people might actually escape that stupid pink stranglehold for good.

    I have problems with Planned Parenthood’s own corporate model (as it has gobbled up many independent clinics, in rural areas especially, sucking up those scarce Title X dollars), but now that they’re under siege, I support them.

    Still, it’s best to donate instead to local feminist clinics. Here in California we have the fantastic women-run and owned nonprofit Women’s Health Specialists, http://www.womenshealthspecialists.org , with seven clinics throughout the north state.

    For those who want to support a feminist breast cancer org that really does things for women, check out Breast Cancer Action in SF: http://bcaction.org . My daughter, who manages the WHC clinic in our small town, promotes their “Think Before You Pink” program, which exposes the phony Korem pink campaign for what it is: a sexist, corporate shill. BCAction does amazing work exposing the corporate roots of the (non-feminist) women’s health industry.

  10. Stella


  11. Mildred

    This is like the White Ribbon Foundation, an anti domestic violence group, they sell white ribbons and blokey ex football player dudes wear the ribbons and show their support for the charity.
    When you look into it, what do they do? Why nothing, they just ‘raise awareness’, not a single flippin’ women’s shelter to their name.

  12. veganrampage

    Wasn’t it brought up legit sources ( and then squashed) that the screenings may even cause breast cancer?

    Glad to see Komen getting the shit kicked out of them though. Donate what you can directly to PP, even if it’s only 5 or 10 bucks. Khrist, Komen are entirely so loathsome.

  13. slipperyslope

    Thanks for affirming something that I have been wondering about since I seem to have encountered so many women with breast cancer. This is especially true of the mothers of the students I work with as well as two personal friends. Some of these women are in their low to mid thirties. All of us older teachers (45 and up) agreed that we have never seen so many cases of breast cancer in women so young. Being diagnosed with breast cancer is always one of the things lurking in the back of my mind.

    It appears to me that the Komen Foundation does not help women with breast cancer. The PTA at our school took up a collection from parents and teachers to help a school parent pay for the co-pays for her chemo treatment. Her co-pays were $200 a treatment which she would undergo twice a month and she has insurance!!! At the time I wondered if the Komen Foundation helped with these expenses and now I know it does not.

    Why doesn’t the Komen Foundation look for a CAUSE of breast cancer as well as a cure?

    Also, does anyone have thoughts on why a woman would want to limit the reproductive rights of herself and other women? What would possess a woman to be ultraconservative? I’m trying to imagine what life circumstances would lead a woman down this path? Isn’t it like shooting yourself in the foot?

  14. susanw

    Bravo! To every request that I help “Find The Cure”, I reply, with increasingly tight jaws, “No, I don’t want to cure breast cancer. I want to PREVENT it. Why don’t you ask Corporate America to get on board?”

  15. thebewilderness

    The redirection of charitable organizations from research and prevention to broadening awareness of what to fear has always struck me as strange. They jealously guard their ownership of the phrase “for the cure” and spend their money elsewhere.
    It reminds me of the rape prevention bullshit that women are inundated with from the time they are nine years old. Be aware of what you should be afraid of. As if!
    Corporations that sell cancer causing products get pretty pink PR and a tidy tax write off. Women get hyper awareness and pink tchotchkes.

  16. Phledge

    There are calls for peeps to petition Komen to change its mind, and posts like this reinforce why I’ll do no such thing. Komen has been a lost cause for quite some time now, while Planned Parenthood has been a staunch supporter of women’s health for many a decade. It’s been reported that two-thirds of the lost financial support has already been recovered through donations from about 6,000 online donors, too. I say just donate straight to PP and let Komen starve in disgrace as it should have initially.

  17. olympia

    I actually saw, in the comments of one site, someone say (heavily paraphrased, here, and in support of Komen), “The role of Komen is stuff like having all the NFL players wear pink on the designated day.” Really. Not finding out environmental causes of breast cancer, not giving financial access to breast cancer treatments to people- but pink cleats on football players.

  18. gingerest

    Raising awareness! My favorite substitute for actually doing things to fix problems.

  19. Wandering Uterus

    Komen only sponsors screenings. Great. What about poor US women who don’t qualify for Medicaid and can’t afford to buy insurance? If they find out they have cancer, that’s a preexisting condition. No one will cover it then, even if a woman manages to buy insurance post diagnosis. And forget about affording it out-of-pocket.

    So if women from this demographic get diagnosed, what do they know besides the fact that they’re SOL?

    I hope folks donate to PP instead – or Jezebella’s campaign fund.

  20. amyerson

    Between the Komen pink and the Livestrong Foundation’s yellow, one would think both organizations have achieved their goal of “cancer awareness.” Perhaps some day they can raise some money for actual treatment and research, too.

  21. Ginjoint

    Here’s what pisses me off about this: it’s a shaming tactic. Komen is saying to PP, “Ooooh, you’re scary and bad for our image,” and therefore adding to the stigma of abortion, which of course shouldn’t exist in the first place.

    There’s another angle, too: I had estrogen-receptive breast cancer. That means that getting pregnant would increase my chances of (another) recurrence. Now, I won’t get pregnant, because the chemo caused ovarian failure, then I had ’em yanked. But ovarian failure does not happen to all women who undergo chemo – some are still able to get pregnant afterwards. If they had estrogen-receptive cancer, becoming pregnant is risky business. They may want to, you know, HAVE AN ABORTION, which is fraught with shame in this country to begin with. So nice to know that Komen is simply adding to that, instead of being a source of comfort to the very women they purportedly help. Shitstains.

    I’m babbling ’cause I’m mad. I’ve despised Komen for a long time, for all the reasons Jill listed, but this takes the cake. Now I’m off to find an address for Karen Handel, in order to make a big donation to PP in her name.

  22. Alie

    Here’s what I hate about the whole thing: Cancer will never be fully cured, because the money isn’t in the cure, it’s in the treatment. Get ’em sick, keep ’em sick, and sell ’em a pill. The patriarchy ensures that women will either be too poor to afford proper treatment and prevention, or too distracted by pink ribbons, awareness runs, and bad science to make a real difference.

  23. veganrampage

    This may be perfect timing.
    “Pink Ribbons, Inc.”, a Canadian documentary that is “highly critical” of Komen premieres February 3rd in Canada. You can watch interviews with the producer/director on The Canadian Film Board site.
    Too bad we can’t see it down here in the land that minds forgot.

  24. JR

    I prefer “Think Before You Pink” to Komen, anyway.

    Aside from the entire issue of Komen cutting off Planned Parenthood, which is pretty obviously politically motivated, woman-hating, and hypocritical: I wish people would take this as a teaching moment. Yes, people will likely shift their donations to Planned Parenthood instead of Komen – indeed, it seems they already have – and some consider this a sort of victory.

    It’s a pity we have to grasp at straws like this and call them victories, however. “Victory”, for me, would be when we don’t have to have networks for women’s health that are run by independent donations (mostly given by women) for women to go to special women’s clinics to obtain birth control, abortion, and other women’s health care, while angry men with signs and bullhorns scream misogynistic slogans at you with spittle running down their chins or occasionally bomb the place in the dead of night like the brave soldiers of god that they are. “Victory” would be when women can go to a regular old doctor’s office in America and receive health care of any sort that she needs without anyone knowing if it is of the nasty scarlet letter kind dealing with her unmentionable regions or not, and it is paid for by insurance, private, nationalized, or otherwise, because there is actually some sane health care policy in place that recognizes that people need actual health care even if they aren’t millionaires.

    Is there any sort of men’s-only health care that men are having to go around and beg for other men to send in their extra pennies for because men aren’t getting help and so they are suffering/dying from it on a regular basis? Is this a rhetorical question?

  25. AoT

    It’s eve worse than them not funding treatment, they actively lobbied against a bill that would provide treatment to women who couldn’t afford it. Not to mention that they did similar things in the heath insurance reform fight in 2009. And there is also the fore mentioned allying themselves with companies that produce products that can cause breast cancer.

  26. Twisty

    Nice blaming, JR.

  27. Callipogee


    How is this the first I am finding out about you.

    My cockles are warm. And my cockles I mean my lady balls.

  28. Comrade PhysioProf

    (“patient navigation”? What the heck is that, they throw indigent patients in a boat and make’m row for the cure?)

    I know this is not a laughing matter, but fucke, thatte was a fucken good one.

  29. thatlush

    Further to what veganrampage said: I had the opportunity to watch a pre-release screening of Pink Ribbons Inc. and it was awesome. The women interviewed in it are on-point, pissed off and insightful. Given the issues that it tackles and what has happened in the past several days, I’m optimistic more people might go check it out.

    For those unable to access a Canadian theatre, here’s a link to the NFB page:

    p.s. to you, Twisty: this is my first official comment, having been emboldened by our FB friendship – fleeting though it was. I have decided to stop lurking and start participating.

  30. damequixote

    quote @Slipperyslope; “What would possess a woman to be ultraconservative? I’m trying to imagine what life circumstances would lead a woman down this path? Isn’t it like shooting yourself in the foot?”

    Yes, it is exactly like shooting yourself in the foot, after you have shot 10 other women in the head.

  31. Annette

    Never posted here before but I saw this wonderful piece of Komen memorabilia and thought Twisty might enjoy it if she hasn’t seen it yet. Forgive me if I’m repeating someone’s earlier post.


    For all those times when you need to shoot someone while simultaneously reminding her to get a mammogram.

  32. Maruja de lujo

    The Atlantic article on the subject describes it as “a deeply regrettable controversy”. What’s regrettable about it? It has reached the sort of trusting souls who do the sponsored walks and buy pink things “for the cure”(TM) and don’t see any problem with the fact that gynecology services have to be funded by charities in the US. They are waking up to what Twisty and Barbara Eichenreich and others have been saying for years.

    AoT, thanks for the link to the Elizabeth Pinson article. That was very interesting.

  33. Hari

    @Slipperyslope: “What would possess a woman to be ultraconservative? I’m trying to imagine what life circumstances would lead a woman down this path? Isn’t it like shooting yourself in the foot?”

    Simple–follow the money (and so, the power).

    When even the vast majority of menstream feminists have been content in the past 40yrs to settle for a bigger piece of patriarchy’s pie (never better than Jr Men while going about it), it comes as no surprise that the traditionalists are avid to support all that patriarchy is. IBTP on both counts. It’s difficult to the point of seemingly impossible to smash the P, and we all want to be well-fed, housed, etc; some want to be rich and powerful as well. These desires are only natural, and we tend to use what’s available to get by.

    It’s great to see all this critique of Komen, whose pink campaign never impressed me, for the same reason that some here have appropriately belittled any campaign whose primary aim is to raise awareness. Further, Komen has been utterly derelict in promoting known breast cancer prevention tactics.

    Why haven’t they been campaigning for breastfeeding among mothers, which is among the most powerful of BC preventions? Why haven’t they been campaigning against BRAS–because wearing bras, particularly underwire bras, is the single most common link to breast cancer? I don’t have a link; I didn’t save any because as a midwife with an understanding of anatomy/phys, the science was perfectly clear to me. Bras tend to block the lymph flow through our chest/breasts/armpits–where we have a confluence of lymph vessels. The lymph system is the highway of the immune system, and stagnation in its flow tends to impede immune system function. And our immune system ordinarily manages cancer prevention for us. Cancer cells arise in all of us from time to time, but a healthy immune system usually just destroys them before they multiply.

    Anyway–Komen is just not such a good friend to womyn. Maybe the PP debacle will help make this more clear.

  34. speedbudget

    While we are protesting Komen, please keep in mind that the American Cancer Society is just as bad, if not worse. I have been refusing to participate in any of their fundraisers and spreading the word for about 20 years now.

    The members of the Board of Directors of ACS are the same members of the Boards of Directors of the large pharmaceutical companies and the petrochemical companies. It’s a round-robin of evil. It’s in ACS’s best interest to keep cancer happening, since it’s in the best interest of the pharmaceuticals to keep cancer happening and since petrochemicals are one of the leading causes of cancer, it’s cheaper for them to continue causing cancer than to be forced to comply with environmental regulations. Please don’t give to ACS either. They are there to support the status quo.

  35. speedbudget

    Oh, I see. A politically-motivated investigation that has been going on for some months now and has turned up absolutely nothing is worth pulling your funding. But a criminal investigation into systemic child abuse is worth $7.5 mill. Makes sense.


  36. janicen

    Well said, JR. Women’s reproductive health facilities are isolated so they can be marginalized and targeted.

  37. Ginjoint

    Thank you for that link, thatlush. I loves me some NFB films, and I can’t wait to see Pink Ribbons. I’m glad you commented.

  38. qvaken

    @speedbudget: Wow. That is one strong indicator of political motivation, right there.

  39. TwissB

    @JR – “It’s a pity we have to grasp at straws like this and call them victories, however”

    Now you’re cooking, JR. Keep asking why those vaunted “victories for women” don’t result in permanent gains in women’s equality. Why isn’t each used as a public teaching moment about sex discrimination against women and what it costs us?

  40. Marianne

    I can tell you what “patient navigation” is, since I am paid full time to do it (although not in the breast cancer world, in a different traumatic medical diagnosis world). Because our health care system in this country is so incredibly fucked up, it takes full time employees to assist patients in quite literally NAVIGATING the various systems that they must interact with and plead to in order to get the medical care they need. They may need Medicaid, but may be just over the income limit, requiring them to “spend down” some of their income to qualify. They may need to apply for indigent waivers at various hospitals and care facilities, and those indigent waivers only apply to THAT facility, while requiring mountains of paperwork to complete each one. They may need to apply for Social Security Disability (that much vaunted “safety net” that republican candidates love to talk about), which requires another mountain of paperwork and then you have to wait two years until you can get 80% of your health care needs covered by Medicare. And then there are the various grants to help certain individuals with certain diseases, all of which require, you guessed it, more paperwork, more requirements that you may or may not meet.

    The patient cannot possibly keep track of all of this crap, and much of it is incomprehensible, even to those who work within it, much less to those who are seriously ill in the bargain. The doctors and nurses and other medical professionals simply do not have the time to assist in this arena, nor do they understand most of what is needed.

    Patients therefore need help in “navigation”. I always say that if we ever in my lifetime get some kind of national health care, I would be out of a job (presuming it was a system that makes sense, which is a long shot, I suppose), and I would laugh all the way to the unemployment line, because it would be such a happy day for me.

    Sorry for the long comment, but this is important to me, it’s important for everyone to understand.

  41. stacey

    Thanks for the explanation, Marianne. I think you’d still be employed, however; from what I know of how the Canadian system works, some of that stuff still happens, just internally.

  42. FM

    So far in the MSM, I found just one NPR story talks about the larger issues with Komen for the Cancer, and they mislabeled the story’s title and buried the important bits at the bottom:


    Way to bury a story.

  43. Daisy Deadhead

    Bint, another cancer survivor, is pretty rough on em too:


    I am just glad all of this info is now public and no OTHER unsuspecting soul will waste their aging body on a 14-mile walkathon, the way I did. I don’t appreciate helping to pay Handel’s $400,000+ salary with my efforts. Really, that is excessive in these harsh economic times.

    Komen now has zero credibility with me.

  44. IBlameRonPaul

    So the first thing that burns me up about Komen is how dumb-ass, perma-outraged American schmoes confuse it with “disproportionate amounts of funding spent on women’s health issues” while the poor, poor men are ignored! I mean, the models for heart attacks and all other major illnesses are only built on male models, and disproportionately women suffer heart attacks and the various and sundry consequences of their healthcare being marked as “different/other/broken” model and marked up to an obscene price. (See: Cost of insuring women under 45 vs. men, price of any gynecological treatment you can name, potential long-term costs of P-in-V sex.)

    I also loathe the useless American health-care system, and its generally infantilizing and dismissive attitude toward women. I’ve been dealing with this almost since birth, and it’s grown worse, as I have chronic conditions I need to manage, and feel I have no agency whatsoever.

    Finally, given my family’s experiences with cancer, and my urge to punch a wall out with my bare fist every time I visit a doctor and get treated like I’m three, I’m seriously considering just offing myself if I get any kind of cancer or any other serious and life-threatening illness. All the moralizers out there can STFU. Rational suicide is rational when your dignity has been taken away, and the medical-industrial complex has reduced you to a babbling, stupid fetus-vessel that forks over millions to Big Pharma in exchange for being told to shut up and let the “nice” doctors have their way with you.

    Shit. Red. Seeing red, I tell you.

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